What makes a man manly?
The stereotypes are easy: He loves bacon and hot wings and beer. He roars at football games or UFC matches. He smokes cigars. He fishes. He has a man cave. He wears camouflage. He drives a big or fast car. He intimidates other men. He never backs down. He never cries. He’s hairy. He has a square jaw or cleft chin. He works out. He has a deep voice. He has to shave every day, twice. He can carry heavy stuff. He’s not afraid of anything.
That stuff’s fine (or not), and I won’t go into which of those things are applicable to my husband, but there are some other things that I think of as more manly. Some things I deeply appreciate about my manly man.
1. He can handle uncomfortable. When things get stressful or uncertain or hard, he stays the course. He walks through uncomfortable, not around or away from it.
Before we were married (not after of course!), my husband went through a particularly tough season in life. He was learning a new and complex job; he was living in a new city on the opposite side of the country from what felt like home (he hadn’t wanted the job or the city); and he was dealing with fallout from past circumstances. He was exhausted, stressed out, angry and uncertain about everything. For months. And one day he cried out (again) to God, but this time instead of asking for relief he asked a simple question: “God, what do you want?? Do you just want me to be ok with all of this discomfort??”
And God said Yes. So my husband said Ok.
He said he could see a picture of himself in his mind standing on a narrow bridge over blackness. And in front of him the bridge continued into blackness. And he knew he was just supposed to walk into that unknown one step at a time. So he stayed in the new city and kept showing up for the new job and continued to sift through the pain of the past.
Since I have known him, I have seen my husband stay the course again and again.
2. He stands up straight in conflict. Mind you, he’s not having conflict all the time, but when it comes he doesn’t back away in fear or push forward to intimidate. He simply holds his ground. And he doesn’t always just wait for conflict to come to him. When it’s necessary (rarely), he will initiate it.
3. He’s humble. Ok, he’s fond of characterizing our marital disagreements with the comment, “Sometimes I’m right, and sometimes we’re both right.” But he’s joking. Even though he is probably right a slightly higher percentage of the time than me.
It’s easy to think of a “humble” person as someone who self-denigrates or refuses to acknowledge their accomplishments. My husband does neither. But he has no problem admitting (out loud, even) when he’s wrong and, even harder, immediately working to change whatever is affected by his wrongness. It doesn’t seem to occur to him that his pride needs a cooling off period, or that he needs to change slowly so it’s less obvious.
He doesn’t consider being wrong a blow to his identity or respectability or manhood. But being unwilling to change in the face of truth? That would be silly.
4. He goes to the doctor when he needs to. No false machismo. No stubborn heel-dragging. He sees his health as a valuable asset to his family and he treats it like one. But if he has the supplies on hand, he’s also willing to stitch up his own cuts. Because he knows how to do that.
5. He gets his hands dirty. Admittedly, his work in the medical field has taught him to get over a lot of squeamishness, but he’ll still do stuff even when it grosses him out. All four of our children have on various occasions puked all over Daddy. When it’s clear they won’t make it to the toilet or a towel, he simply holds them and says, “Go ahead and let it all out, baby.” They don’t see the distaste on his face and he doesn’t complain about it. And he doesn’t have to scrub the carpet later.
One time, on a plane in the middle of that five-seat inner row, our baby son was crying loudly and hungrily. When the flight attendant returned with hot water in his bottle of formula, it was too hot and too full. There was no easy way out of our aisle. So Daddy took a big gulp of it to make room for some cool water. The man next to him whistled and said, “Now that’s a Dad for you.” My husband just gagged and gave our son the bottle.
And when we had chickens in our suburban backyard, he rubbed salve on their occasional sores and did the horrific job of “putting them down” when a few of them were beyond help.
6. He talks. He doesn’t always enjoy talking, and says my female mind is like a spider web of interconnected thoughts while his is more like a train track, but when it becomes necessary for us to communicate about communication in our marriage he takes an Extra Strength Excedrin and wades in.
Nothing is off-limits. He does not retreat to his man cave or listen in passive silence. I don’t have to censor myself. I mean, I try to be polite and pleasant company, but if I’m upset and angry I can say so. He will listen. And then he might tell me why I’m wrong to be that way and wrong in my assessments. But he engages.
7. He’s submissive. That’s manly? Yes. He obeys God. Even when it’s downright hard. My husband never had plans to live on the West Coast. He bought his little piece of heaven in upstate New York where he was surrounded by people and work he loved. He planned to live out his life there. And then, seemingly out of the blue, God told him to move to Seattle (it’s a long and interesting story). And he didn’t want to, at all. But he did.
And that’s where he met me! We’ve been married seven years today and I have seen him seek God’s will and obey repeatedly. As a result, I have a deep trust of his decisions and a deep respect for him.
So, Happy 7th Anniversary to my manly man!
I love you, Kerry.